Musc 450 The Music of Black Americans Fall Semester 2013 Dr. Ronald C. McCurdy

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MUSC 450 The Music of Black Americans

Fall Semester 2013
Dr. Ronald C. McCurdy, Professor Teaching Assistant: Lemar Guillary

Course Hours: M-W, 2:00-3:50p.m. Email:

Office Hours: MW 1:00 -2:00p.m.

Office Phone: (213) 821-2301


Course Description

This course will examine and chronicle the musical contributions of African Americans who came to this country as Indentured Servants in 1619 and later slaves beginning in the 17th Century. Emerging from the degradation and atrocities of slavery, the African American was able to create a “song” that would have a profound impact on how we disseminate and digest music today. Although musical contributions by African Americans will be the primary focus of this class, it will be necessary to discuss and examine the social, economic, religious, political and technological variables that helped with the proliferation of the music.
Ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax stated, “As we live, so do we sing.” Those words have never been more applicable to the plight of the African American that came to America as slaves. We will examine a variety of musical genres beginning with the music of West Africa and moving to Plantations songs (spirituals, work songs), Ethiopian Minstrelsy, music of the Mississippi Delta, Blues, Ragtime, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Art Music. As we examine the various genres we will need to identify some of the individuals who were instrumental in shaping the landscape of what became American Music. Such figures as Master Juba, Francis Johnson, Newport Gardner, Richard Allen, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Robert Johnson, Ma Rainey, Thomas A. Dorsey, Marian Anderson, William Grant Still, Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Jay-Z will be discussed. All of these individuals helped to shape and define the African Diaspora in America. All of the musical innovations and opportunities experienced by the African and later African Americans were tempered by social, political, economic and religious variables.
As we progress through each era, we will examine many of the social, economic, religious, political and technological variables that influenced the direction of the music. For example, the invention of the cotton gin, Emancipation Proclamation, Jim Crow laws, the church, the record business, the institution of sharecropping, the World Wars, Civil Rights Movement all played a major role in how the music was influenced. This course will also consider the global impact African Americans have had on the direction and influences of various musical styles and the economic force it has had on the global economy. The diversity dimensions for this course will be Race, Religion and Gender. This will be the reoccurring theme throughout the semester as we examine the various developments and contributions of African Americans.

Texts: Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans (1997)

Suggested Readings:

Michelle Alexander The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2012)

Adam Bradley, The Anthology of Rap (2011)

Mary S. Campbell, et. al. Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America (1987)

Basil Davidson. The African Slave Trade (1980)

Blackmon, Douglas, Slavery By Another Name (2009)

Samuel A. Floyd The Power of Black Music (1995)

Khalil Gibran Muhammad The Condemnation of Blackness (2011)

Peter Hudis Jim Crow New York: A Documentary History of Race, 1777-1877(2003)

Charles Johnson, et. al. Africans in America (1998)

James Loewen. Lies My Teacher Told Me (1995)

Robert O’Meally, The Jazz Cadence of American Culture (1998)

Paul Tanner, Jazz Issues: A Critical History (1995)

Frank Tirro, Jazz History (1993)

Rhoden, William, 40 Million Dollar Slaves (2006)

Six (6) requirements for the course grades will be determined by the following:

(1) Class participation (discussion, writings) (5%)

(2) Oral presentation (15%)

(3) Mid-term Exam (20%)

(4) Final exam (30%

(5) Research paper (20%)

(6) Listening exams and quizzes (10%)

Class Mechanics:

A. Research Paper Guidelines

Each student will submit a 10-page, typed and double-spaced research paper covering one of the following topics: 1) a comparative analysis of two different styles (e.g. gospel vs. spirituals, stride piano vs. ragtime, New Orleans Jazz vs. Chicago Jazz, Urban blues vs. Classic blues); 2) historical survey of a particular instrument used in jazz (e.g., African instruments, evolution of the tenor saxophone, trumpet or electric guitar); 3) a critique of a particular era or genre ranging from the 1800s to present. Research should include popular performers, styles and events; 4) the relationship between a selected genre and social politics within a specific period or stylistic movement. Papers are expected to be written in a scholarly fashion including technical jargon, or reference to seminal recordings. As a research paper, each work must include a bibliography of sources used. Please consult the MLA Handbook, Turabian’s Manual of Style or the Chicago Manual of Style for citation format. Students must have topics approved by the instructor by Wednesday, October 9. Paper is due November 18 No extensions will be granted unless there are special circumstances.

B. Oral Presentation Guidelines

Students will be assigned to a group (no more than four students) to prepare and present an oral presentation. The presentation will be thirty five minutes in length and will address the following: 1) biographical information about artist or genre, 2) a description of performance practices and analysis of the style, 3) those who influenced and those who were influenced by your artist of choice and 4) the social, technology, economic, religious, and/or political variables that may have influenced the music. This presentation should be done on PowerPoint complete with video/audio inserts and still photographs. Each group will prepare a one-page abstract complete with bibliography and discography.

C. Class Assignments

Regular class attendance, adequate preparation, and class participation is expected. Four unexcused absences will result in your grade being lowered by a letter grade. The aforementioned will be essential to your success in this course. All exams are to be taken at times indicated and assignments will be due on the day of class listed (with a hard copy). Late assignments will not be accepted. Only extreme emergency situations (must be documented) will warrant a make-up exam or acceptance of late assignments. You must call Dr. McCurdy’s office in advance of the exam or quiz. Please do not schedule a trip before the mid-term or final exam. The exam will not be given early!

D. Disability Statement: Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester.  A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP.  Please be sure the letter is delivered to me (or to TA) as early in the semester as possible.  DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.  The phone number for DSP is 213/740-0776.

E. Statement on Academic Integrity

USC seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment. General principles of academic honesty include the concept of respect for the intellectual property of others, the expectation that individual work will be submitted unless otherwise allowed by an instructor, and the obligations both to protect one’s own academic work from misuse by others as well as to avoid using another’s work as one’s own. All students are expected to understand and abide by these principles. Scampus, the Student Guidebook, contains the Student Conduct Code in Section 11.00, while the recommended sanctions are located in Appendix A: Students will be referred to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards for further review, should there be any suspicion of academic dishonesty. The Review process can be found at:


Quizzes and listening exams

September 9

September 25

October 30

November 18
Student Class Presentations

October 9

October 23

November 4

November 13

November 27

Term Paper Due

November 18


Mid-term: Wednesday, October 16 (class time)

Final Exam: December 13 (double check time)


Unit One: Music in African Culture and the Middle Passage

Week One

Monday, August 26 Welcome: Class Overview.

Wednesday, August 28 What were the functions of music in African Society? What roles were played by men, women, children and the elderly? What were the functions of music? What were the instruments? Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages 3-21. (Article) Cudjoe, S.D., The Techniques of Ewe Drumming and the Social Importance of Music in Africa.

Week Two

Monday, September 2 No Class- Labor Day

Wednesday, September 4 The Middle Passage and the Slave Trade. What countries were involved in the Slave Trade? What role did Africans play in the slave trade?

Readings: Music of Black Americans, pages 23- 40. (Article) Lovejoy, Paul E. The “Middle Passage”: The Enforced Migration of Africans across the Atlantic
Week Three

Unit Two: Two Wars and the New Nation

Monday, September 9 The Middle Passage and the Slave Trade. Characteristics of West African Music. Music of the Colonial Period. Primary and secondary sources. Church Singing: Psalmody and Hymnody. Slavery in the North Vs. the South. Readings: Music of Black Americans, pages 40-58.

Quiz and listening exam
Wednesday, September 11 Early Colonial life in America. From indentured servitude to Slavery. What were the conditions of Slave life during the 17th and 18th centuries? The Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. What role did the African (Slave) serve? What kind of music was produced? Religious conversion into Christianity. What impact did this have on the music? What role did the Catholics, Quakers and Moravians play in this process? How did the Africans view the efforts of the religious vocal ensemble? The Black Church. Camp Meetings. What was Richard Allen’s Role?

Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages 61-74. (Article) Pybus, Cassandra, Epic Journey’s of Freedom: Runaway Slave of the American Revolution and Their Global Quest for Liberty. Assignment: Video “Amistad” (Assigned questions)

Week four

Monday, September 16 Ethiopian Minstrelsy. King Daddy Rice. Jim Crow and the everlasting impact. What were the content of the Minstrel Songs? What were the caricatures perpetuated. Readings: Music of Black Americans, pages 75-88.

Assignment: compose a letter from the perspective of a slave taken to the “new” land. The letter can be written to a parent, grandmother, brother or sister. A select number of students will be asked to read their letters orally in class.

Wednesday, September 18 Antebellum Period: Urban life. What were the conditions? The Anti-slavery movement, the Underground Railroad. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages 89-96. (Article) Love and Theft: The Racial Unconscious of Blackface Minstrelsy Author(s): Eric Lott. Assignment:

Week Five

Monday September 23 Music of the Black Church. Dance Orchestras and Recreational music. Black fiddlers and white dances. African Dances in the South. The Underground Railroad. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages 97-116.

Wednesday, September 25 Patterns of slavery in the north and south. Psalm singing in the community. The growth of Psalmody and Hymnody. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages 117-150 (Article) Rev. Solomon Iyobosa Omo-Osagie II. “Their Soul Made Them Whole”: Negro Spirituals and Lessons in Healing and Atonement. Quiz and listening exam

Week Six

Monday, September 30 The Antebellum Period: Rural life. Entertainment for the Plantation. What were the conditions? What were the job opportunities for free black men? What were the conditions of plantation life for women? Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages 151-178.

Video: Glory (Assigned Questions)
Wednesday, October 2 The Methodist church and the African (slave) Independent Denominations. What were the conditions of the Methodist church for slaves? What were the musical in Characteristics of Folk Music. The Origin of the Spiritual. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 178-204. (Article) Maultsby, Portia, K. Black Spirituals: An Analysis of Textual Forms and Structures.

Unit Three: The War Years and Emancipation

Week seven

Monday, October 7 The Civil War! War Songs. The Dissemination of Spirituals: The Fisk Jubilee Singers and other student groups. The gender mixed choirs of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Professional Jubilee Singers. Black Ethiopian Minstrelsy. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 205-231. Assignment:

Wednesday, October 9 More Minstrel Stars. The Concert Stage: Concert vocalist and instrumentalist. The concert Divas: What were their musical and professional challenges? Traveling Road Shows. The Brass Bands and Dance orchestras of Frances Johnson.

Readings: Fox, Herbert. Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 231-253. (Article)Kenney III, William Howland. The Influence of Black Vaudeville on Early Jazz (Oral Class Presentation #1)

Unit Four: The New Century

Week Eight

Monday, October 14 Emergence of the Black Intellectuals, artists. Nationalism, Music Conservatories. Black Composers. Concertized Spiritual. Music of the 20th Century. The Clef Club Orchestra and James Reese Europe. Vernon and Irene Castle. Music. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 265-312.

Assignment: Craft two (2) position papers (one page each) pro and con rationalizing Reparations to descendants of slaves. Both positions should be equally convincing.
Wednesday, October 16 Mid-Term Exam

(Article) Floyd, Samuel A. The Invisibility and Fame of Harry T. Burleigh.

Unit Five: Precursors of Jazz

Week Nine

Monday, October 21 Music in the 20th Century. The Emergence of Ragtime. Scott Joplin. Jelly Roll Morton and other Rag Performers. Piano Styles: Antecedents of Ragtime. Stride, Boogie Woogie Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 313-331. (Article) Berlin, Edward A. Scott Joplin's Treemonisha Years.

Wednesday, October 23 The Blues! Father of the Blues, W.C. Handy. Characteristics of the Blues and Gospels. Women Gospel Artists. Mahalia Jackson: Queen of Gospel Brass Bands and Dance Orchestras in New Orleans. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 332-364. (Article) Eastman, Ralph. Country Blues Performance and the Oral Tradition.

(Article) Taylor, Jeffrey J. Earl Hines's Piano Style in the 1920s: A Historical and Analytical

(Oral Class Presentation #2)

Video: Bamboozled (Assigned questions)

Unit Six: The Jazz Age

Week Ten

Monday, October 28 The Jazz Age. Race Records. New Orleans and the Jazz Movement. The First True Jazz Artist: Louis Armstrong. Other 1st Generation Jazz Artists. Music of Black Americans, pages, 365-382.

Wednesday, October 30 The Swing Era: The music of Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and others. Readings: Music of Black Americans, pages, 383-403. (Article) Pearson, Nathan W. Political and Musical Forces That Influenced the Development of Kansas City. (Article) Taylor, Jeffrey J. Earl Hines's Piano Style in the 1920s: A Historical and Analytical

Quiz and listening exam

Unit Seven: The Harlem Renaissance

Week Eleven

Monday, November 4 The Harlem Renaissance. W.E.B. DuBois and other Black Intellectuals. The Concert world: Roland Hayes, Marian Anderson, and Paul Robeson. Professional Choirs, Eva Jessye The Sacred Music of Duke Ellington.

Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 404—424. (Oral Class Presentation #3)

Wednesday, November 6 Dean of Afro-American Composers: William G. Still and other Concert Artists. Blacks on Broadway. Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 425-450. (Article) Lutz, Tom. Curing the Blues: W. E. B. Du Bois, Fashionable Diseases, and Degraded Music. (Article) Scott Deveaux and Howard McGhee. Jazz in the Forties

Week Twelve

Monday, November 11 Emergence of Gospel. Thomas A. Dorsey, Father of Gospel. Charles A. Tindley. Characteristics of Gospel Music. Gospel Composers. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 450-465 and 471-486.

Wednesday, November 13 WWII and the Bebop Era. Fathers of Bebop; Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. The Great Lakes Experiment. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 466-470 and 487-490. (Article) Phillip L. Mason. Soul In The Culture of African Americans. (Oral Class Presentation#4)
Week Thirteen

Monday, November 18 It’s A Woman’s World!: Women Blues and Jazz Singers: Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters. The social dynamics of the women blues singers. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. Stylistic characteristics of improvisation. Women Instrumentalist: Mary Lou Williams, et. al.

Readings: (Article) Charles L. Blockson. Melody of Freedom: Paul Robeson (Article) Frances Richardson Keller The Harlem Literary Renaissance
. Quiz and listening exam


Wednesday, November 20 Thanksgiving Break (No Class)

Unit Five: Mid-20th Century to the Present

Week Fourteen

Monday, November 25 The Great Lakes Experience: A breeding ground for music development and segregation. The Black Revolution, New developments in Jazz: Bebop, Cool, Hard Bop, Free. Blacks on Broadway: Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake: Shuffle Along

Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 466-470 and 487-499.
Wednesday, November 27 The Black Revolution: Music of the Civil Rights. Rhythm and Blues, Pop Artists, Soul Music, Dance music and Gospel Quartets. Jazz in the Church. Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul Music and her cultural limitations. Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 513-522 (Article) Robert Stephens. Soul: A Historical Reconstruction of Continuity and Change in Popular Black Music (Article) John Fitzgerald, Motown Crossover Hits 1963-1966 and the Creative Process (Oral Class Presentation #5)

Week Fifteen

Monday, December 2 Rap and Hip hop: Who were the innovators? Women Rappers in a male dominated genre. Contemporary Gospel Groups. Women in the Black Church. Gospel Since the 1980s. Kirk Franklin and the Winans. The Future?? Readings: Southern, Music of Black Americans, pages, 594-608.

Wednesday, December 4 Class Review

(Article) Jennifer C. Lena, Social Context and Musical Content of Rap Music 1979-1995 (Article) Michael Eric Dyson, The Culture of Hip Hop

Selected Critical Bibliography

Butcher, Margaret Just. The Negro in American Culture. New York: Alfred A. Knopf,


Davis, Basil. The African Slave Trade. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1980.

Floyd Samuel A. The Power of Black Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Huggins, Nathan I. Harlem Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.

Johnson, Charles and Patricia Smith. Africans in America: American’s journey Through

Slavery. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1998.

Johnson James Weldon. Black Manhattan. New York: Atheneum, 1969.

McKay, Claude. Harlem: Negro Metropolis. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1940.

Megill, David W. and Paul O. Tanner. Jazz Issues: A Critical History. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm Brown, 1995.

Osofsky, Gilbert. Harlem: The Making of a Ghetto. 2nd. Ed., NY: Harper & Row, 1971.

O’Meally, Robert, ed. The Cadence of American Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

Shaw, Arnold. The Jazz Age: Popular Music in the 1920’s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Sidram, Ben. Black Talk. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.

Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans: A History. 3rd Ed., New York: W.

Norton & Company, Inc., 1997.

Tirro, Frank. Jazz: A History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993.

Turner, Dawin T. In A Minor Chord. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 1971.

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